Kern County firefighters and Hazmat team members examine a truck where chemicals were found to be leaking after a fire broke out in the big rig's rear wheels on Tuesday evening, March 3, about two miles north of El Tejon School.
UPDATE Frazier Park, CA, March 4, 2009, 8:45 a.m.—The remaining two lanes of the northbound I-5 were opened at 6:25 this morning, as cleanup crews finished operations at the site of the truck fire and chemical leak in Lebec.
Following is a report from California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Ehly: On March 3, 2009, at approximately [6:40 p.m.], Chance Davis was driving a 2009 Kenworth 3 axel truck pulling a Dorsey 2 axel semi trailer northbound on Interstate 5 (I-5) descending the approximately 6% downgrade, north of Fort Tejon. As [Davis] continued northbound his brakes began to heat up and eventually caught fire. Davis stopped his vehicle on the right shoulder south of the east runaway truck escape ramp and attempted to extinguish the flames but was unsuccessful. The fire caused the left tires and wheels of the truck to melt and overheated a 350 gallon plastic container inside the trailer which contained Hydrogen Peroxide Aqueous Solution. This caused the container to release approximately 25 gallons of the product in the trailer, which leaked onto the #3 and #4 lanes of northbound I-5. The trailer contained a mixed load of other chemicals which were determined to be hazardous. Based on the leak, the mix of different chemicals and the uncertainty [as to whether] the other chemical containers had been compromised, both directions of I-5 were closed until determination could be made as to the integrity of those chemicals and containers. Southbound I-5 was closed at Grapevine Road and northbound I-5 was closed at Fort Tejon. Kern County Fire Department responded as well as their Hazardous Materials Unit along with Kern County Environmental Health Department. After the fire was extinguished, entry into the trailer was made [and] it was determined that the only product to spill was the approximately 25 gallons of Hydrogen Peroxide…No other vehicles were involved and no injuries occurred as a result of the incident. Caltrans responded and assisted with the freeway and lane closures.
UPDATE Frazier Park, CA, March 3, 2009, 10:25 p.m.—Two northbound lanes over the Grapevine have been reopened while hazardous materials are being cleaned up after a big rig fire. All southbound lanes are open.
UPDATE Frazier Park, CA, March 3, 2009, 8:25 p.m.—Northbound lanes of the Interstate-5 freeway between Grapevine and Lebec may remain closed for several hours longer this evening authorities predict. A tanker truck said to be carrying hazardous materials caught fire about a mile north of El Tejon School and the Fort Tejon overpass at about 7 p.m. By 8:15 p.m. southbound lanes had opened again.
The fire was reported first at the axle, then progressed to the trailer. Reports between California Highway Patrol and Kern County Fire Department differ at this time regarding the nature of the hazardous material. CHP reports the truck is carrying hydrogen peroxide. KCFD spokesperson Sean Collins says, "Chemists are analyzing samples," and the substance is still deemed "unknown at this time." Collins reports the fire is now out. Clean up crews have come into the area.
Publisher of The Mountain Enterprise Gary Meyer reports that traffic is backed up from El Tejon School in Lebec in the northbound lane. Traffic is reportedly being diverted from I-5 along Frazier Mountain Park Road.
Tuesday, March 3 at 7:30 p.m.—Interstate 5 has been shut down in both directions due to a tractor-trailer fire near the Grapevine. Traffic has been stopped by California Highway Patrol on northbound I-5 at El Tejon School, and is backed up to Lebec. Southbound traffic is stopped at Grapevine. Check back to this page for updates as they become available.
This is part of the February 27, 2009 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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